Miss Manners says: give me a big break

By Marianne Renner

Every once in a purple moon it seems I get to eat a meal at an establisment where the main course appears at a cost of more than $3.95.

But I figure with graduation approaching soon, I’d better get accustomed to the finer things in life, including learning the appropriate way to behave at high society wing dings.

The Chicago Tribune has a section just for me. It’s called the Style section, and lo and behold, what a more perfect column than “Miss Manners.”

I read Miss Manners, and some have told me I really don’t need to—or that maybe I should be writing this advice column with my long history and knowledge of proper manners. Well, it’s been so long since I’ve used them, I figure now is a good time to brush up.

I’ll give you a little taste of what “Miss Manners” is all about. I took a little quiz, and tried to guess what Miss Manners’ answers would be to the earthshaking questions her readers asked her.

Q: “Dear Miss Manners, what is the proper way to serve butter?”

My answer: It’s cheapest in the one pound plastic tub. This is most economical because you can use the plastic tub afterwards and never have to invest in Tupperware.

Miss Manners thinks a little differently. “Gentle Reader (that’s how she addresses her readers): If you are seriously interested in having fun with butter, you might think about butter curls. An instrument with a sharp, rounded blade can make fanciful shreds of a cold slab of butter.”

Gee, I never thought of butter curls. Good thing I read Miss Manners.

The next advice seeker addressed her letter to Chere Mlle. Manners. The Gentle Reader asked, “I am aware that in the middle to late 18th Century and the early 19th, one spoke French when one wished to be especially polite. Is this still considered standard etiquette or is it passe?”

Oddly enough, my answer turned out to match Miss Manners’ almost identically. The answer: “It is not passe among the French.” One thing I didn’t know was that RSVP, which is used today on American invitations is a French acronym. Gosh, I thought it stood for “Respond Smarter than the Vice President.” But thanks to Miss Manners, I stand corrected.

Here’s one last question. The Gentle Reader asks, “Why is it in poor taste to discuss the price of things?” I couldn’t think of an answer to this because I didn’t know it was bad taste. Oh, fox paw!

Miss Manners answers, “Among sensible people, how much they spend is considered to be not unrelated to how much they have. This is why prices, like salaries, are not discussed in polite society.”

I just can’t grasp this Miss Manners anymore than Emily Post. You know Emily Post, right? I don’t think I’ll ever forget her. When growing up, I heard about her every night at the dinner table. “Emily Post says, ‘Don’t touch your back to the chair at the table.’ Emily Post says, ‘Put your left hand in your lap and eat with your right hand.’ Emily post says, ‘When sitting at a banquet table, one can begin eating after two people have been served.'”

Oh yes, of course, how could I forget the most important rule: “When out to dinner at a restaurant, always read the menu from right to left.” (You know, the prices first.)

Every night there was a new Emily Post lesson we all had to learn. I’m certainly glad I was taught the finer things in life. I have yet to use these little tidbits, but I’m sure the time is coming soon.

Do ya think so? Nah, I’ll probably always talk with food in my mouth, burp, put my elbows on the table, cuss like a sailor and eat from everyone else’s plate.

Sorry Miss Manners, I think I’m beyond help.

Oh well, who wants to be associated with someone called Miss Manners anyway?